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I’d often pass by that place during my nightly walks. It was in front of the walkway which led to the small port in the underdeveloped part of our town. Even so, the old battered concrete ground mixed in with the rocks from the shore, forming a quaint sight. Maybe I’m just attracted to the dreariness of the tropical winter and its misty and melancholy atmosphere. Or perhaps I’m just the type of person that finds beauty where others don’t.
In one of these wintery nights, just as I was returning from my walk, I gave that poorly-built strange church another look. Their ceremonies would start at 8:00 pm every Sunday and then the church would remain completely closed for an hour. After that, all of the church-goers chanted “Hallelujah!” and dispersed. The nature of their rituals often puzzled me, as did their strange name. They called themselves the “Enlightened Scribes of the End Times”. Now I haven’t heard of such a denomination, and cults with these names often didn’t end up well.
I decided to see for myself what the entire buzz was about. At the time, I was unemployed and constantly bored, so I wouldn’t really mind listening to a lot of nonsense if I could unravel the mystery of the decrepit church by the sea.
I talked to the greeter, who always wore that cheerful smile, and asked in a very humble way if they’d let me stay and see the cult. His eyes sunk in when he heard that, the smile on his face became even more prominent and he burst out, ecstatic. “My loved brothers, on this blessed day we’ve claimed yet another soul! Let God bring him to His Light so that he perishes not in ignorance!”
“Amen brother!” replied the church folk.
“Now, please take a seat and get to know your heavenly family, for they’re eager to see what brings a complete stranger to our humble abode. The cult will start in fifteen minutes.”
They were a strange lot, the church-goers. Many of them had similar characteristics and all were of Caucasian descent. Their faces were set in the same expression of the greeter’s, that bright, cheerful smile, and all of them exuded an air of complete peace; as if God Himself had personally assured them of their salvation. Needless to say, it was all very creepy and I soon found myself regretting my decision.
Next to the altar there was some sort of device which looked like it was used to restrain people. I tried to get the church-goers to talk about it but they’d either change the subject or refer to it as “the wheel” and say that, in time I’d get to see it in action.
A bell chimed, and all the doors were closed by the staff. “It’s time!” announced the greeter. Now I didn’t like it. What was that device which looked like it belonged in a torture chamber called “the wheel”? Why did they close the metal doors again? I was terrified of what might transpire in that white, featureless room.
The pastor then came in and read from Revelation, adding some advice of his own to that of John in regards to preparedness and unwavering faith in God’s plan. After finishing his sermon, he asked:
“Shall we shed more light into what’s to come today?”
“Yes, brother!” was the church’s answer.
“So be it. Who will offer their flesh to God so that they may prophesize?
A thin and sickly boy offered to do the pastor’s bidding. “That must be their secret”, I thought. “Will they let me out of here without truly becoming one of their own?”
The boy then walked to the device and set the straps on his wrists and legs himself, as if he had witnessed many such rituals. My heart raced. Then the pastor concluded.
“Today we consecrate that soul to God so that He may grant us with wisdom which is sacred to not just us, but to all mankind. Amen!”
Then my worst fears came true and the device known as the wheel showed its purpose: it spun so fast that I barely could distinguish the human form strapped to it. Eventually, a cry of “Stop!” was heard and the device was turned off. The boy looked unrecognizable, with a frenzied look on his pale face.
“What did you see?” demanded the pastor.
“The outsider is the herald! The outsider!” he said.
These proved to be his last words, for the boy died shortly after. I was shocked to see that his body was just carried to some sort of basement with no objection from his family. And what the hell was going on? They called me the “herald”.
I soon realized what being the “herald” meant, for they strapped me to where I sat and one after the other, men and women, children and the elderly, sacrificed themselves to that machine in front of me. Powerless to do anything, I remained there, urging them to stop it but I discovered that I had no authority over them; I was just the “herald”.
Their martyrdom amounted to nothing, as no one spoke but incoherent ramblings before being relieved of their madness but these amounted to gold to the pastor, as he grew more and more excited with what he heard. “These are great tidings,” he said to me. “I hope you treasure them and continue our legacy.”
I tried to convince him to not kill himself as well as I could but to no avail. He’d already thrust himself on the machine and was eagerly fastening the straps.
“Today I pass my knowledge to you, brother. Alas, what’s a shepherd without his flock?”
And he spun and spun and, as there was no one to turn the device off. He continued to spin until I finally managed to untie myself and stop the device.
It was the most horrible sight to behold. His flesh was in tatters and his abdomen was cut in half, entrails visible. I’m not squeamish but I didn’t have the stomach to take his body off the device. Instead, I covered him and the machine with all the cloth I could find.
My next few hours were spent desperately banging on the metal doors and, after I was found, explaining what happened to the police. After hearing my testimony, the police contacted my family to inquire about any mental disorder that I might have, because I had been lounging in an abandoned warehouse in addition to making outrageous claims. The incredulous investigators also said that they were puzzled as to how I’ve managed to infiltrate such a building, seeing that all of its doors were barred. I insisted that I was telling the truth, despite knowing that given the circumstances, no one in their right mind would believe me.
Maybe the church was right and some unearthly power covered-up all traces of what took place before my very eyes? Maybe I’m truly a prophet after all. I became a Christian and took to interpreting the Book of Revelation, much to my very religious family’s contentment.